FISHING With Alex Julius
It was chilly dry season weather on the Mary River’s inland lagoons last weekend, but that didn’t stop the dozens of competitors in the Top End Barra Series (TEBS) from chucking lures at weed banks, lily fields, stang piles and pandanus trees.
There is no other NT barra competition quite like TEBS because it is held over six different weekends throughout the year, and all at different locations. Each one is called “a round”.
As well, it is strictly an individual event, not teams, although competitors often fish together.
The winner of each round is the angler who catches the greatest total length of five barra over the two days.
The day before a round starts, competitors are emailed that round’s scorecard which must appear in photos of fish on brag mats, and photos are sent to the TEBS management team on the Monday after the round.
The first TEBS round this year was held at Shady Camp and round two was held on the Daly River; the next round will be at Bynoe Harbour on 25-26 August.
According to TEBS co-ordinator, Ross (Rosco) Abraham, the cooler change in the weather leading up to last weekend’s round meant colder water temperatures.
“The night time temperature on Saturday dropped well below 14 degrees and those keen on chasing fish through the wee hours saw them rugged up in all sorts of attire,” Rosco said.
“Simon Bochow reckoned it was so cold during the night that he couldn’t feel his hands or feet.
“Simon overcame his discomfort by plugging in the pie warmer and hugging it all night, and his persistence paid off with a nice 77cm barra caught on a homemade lure.
“The wind also came up each day and this made fishing the billabongs even more difficult,” Rosco reported.
“It was hard to find reasonable shelter where there was also good structure to fish.
“Water temperatures were down throughout the day and the only warmer water was in the shallows.
“The number of crocs out sunning themselves was testament to the cooler water.
“However, the weather over the weekend was truly beautiful as is generally the case this time of the year.
“Clear blue skies and starry nights are worth the trip, let alone the wildlife on display.”
Most competitors fished Corroboree and the Rockhole, although a few ventured to Mary River Bridge and Hardies Lagoons.
Rosco said: “One TEBS competitor decided to have a crack at some isolated water on foot and found a few barra holding in shallow water in the middle of the day.
“Ben Judd started Saturday morning at lines-in and, after dropping a couple of fish, had his first scorer by 7am.
“Ben marked fish on his sounder in the Rockhole but they just didn't play for him, so he changed tactics and went casting stands of timber.
“This approach only resulted in some rats and saratoga.
“He moved back into the main system and managed another point-scorer near the S-bends.
“Ben spent all night trolling and had a bite window early Sunday morning, landing a couple of high 60s and the biggest fish of the round at 86cm,” Rosco told me.
There was a much better result this year than the same round last year, which is not surprising given the great reports of late from inland waters.
Rosco said: “Overall, there were 90 barra over 50cm recorded by competitors compared to only 25 in 2017.
“As usual, there were numerous sub-50cm fish captured but not recorded.
“This year, we also included a section for the biggest saratoga and the biggest sleepy cod, won by Dave Freak and Sean Anderson respectively.”
In-form Alex Felsch won this third TEBS round, his second out of three this year.
Ben Judd came in second and Kel Shipp was third.
1. At 86cm, Ben Judd’s Corroboree barra was by far the biggest caught in last weekend’s Mary River billabongs round of the Top End Barra Series.
2. Crystal Neal fished Hardies Lagoon and was the highest-scoring female TEBS competitor.
3. Simon Bochow put up with the cold to catch this 77cm fish in Corroboree Billabong.